Wednesday, August 01, 2007

No We Don't Need Nuclear Power!

Oh yes we do! Oh no we don't!

Remember our much discussed post on nuclear power generation development and the problems of disposing of nuclear waste?

Well, a response from emeritus professor Keith Barnham appears in today's Guardian. He argues that we just don't need nuclear power at all, and proposes that solar, especially, and wind technology, will rapidly make the suggested expansion of nuclear power generation facilities a non-starter.

The usual clutch of comment posters have already been busy, most falling in to diametrically opposing camps, as usual, but there are some very interesting comments, facts (well, some, maybe, and some a bit questionable....ish) and figures quoted.

Interestingly, there are a few posters who, (maybe with some justification?), question the veracity of an author who is a founder of a solar panel development business.

Me? Well, I'm still confused. I still harbor doubts that 'renewables' technology can develop fast enough to fill the gap that carbon based power generation will surely hit in the future. And I still believe that storing nasty nuclear waste for when future generations can dispose of it safely and securely with a workable industrial scale transmutation technology is not really the correct thing to do.

As ever, there seem to be more questions than answers; and more 'facts'(?) flying about than you can shake a stick at. I'm open to persuasion either for or against nuclear, especially as it does seem to offer the most obvious stop-gap solution. But I think I'll stay sitting on the fence for now.

Anybody want to persuade me to drop down one side or the other?

Well, interestingly, despite Italy banning nuclear power station construction years ago, some at The Vatican do seem to be in favour of nuclear power! Plus they intend to become the planet's first carbon neutral sovereign state! See article from USA Today. Pity that it appears that most of this is to be achieved via offsetting.

Your tax £ at work

I am grateful to Dave of Solarventi for forwarding this: Recycling body hunts direct agency

This... 'its £40m marketing programme to tackle climate change' is a lot of money. However, in light of what we are facing, large sums are needed to tackle huge issues. But what about the ROI to derive a worthwhile enviROI?

My views on 'not-for-profit' as a model are well known (basically a good way to not make a profit is to blow as much internally as possible - real estate, staff, satellites, trips, conferences, pensions, bonuses, etc), especially when 'backed' (what does that mean?) by the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

The aims - to encourage businesses and consumers to be more efficient in their use of materials and recycle more often, helping to minimise landfill, reduce carbon emissions and improve the environment - are laudable, but I simply question the methods and accountability.

Like the BBC (you hold those near and dear to a higher standard), I actually think a lot of what is being done by some departments is very good indeed, and probably more than worthwhile, but when it comes to comms and marketing, which I do know a bit about, the whole thing gets a lot murkier. And I still think there has to be some conflict in getting bonuses (why are public servants and guys like these, and the Environment Agency, on bonuses simply to do their jobs anyway? And it seems you get them even if you foul up) when they are based on targets and rates that will inevitably increase if your throw enough public money at them with awareness campaigns.

I ask a lot, but do intend to try and find some answers out if I can. But if anyone can help with deriving figures for what we spend vs. what we get back (they must be around surely, as a publicly accountable body?) with this mob, I'd be grateful.

Maybe they are worth every penny. But at the moment, I'm am not feeling the benefits of £40M.

And let's remember the vast number of other such entities getting similar amounts to play with, and which often seem, to me at least, to be overlapping if not actually confusing the issue with different messages all the time.

Joined up at the HIPS?

Today sees the Home Information Packs kick in, and the Housing Minister is on BBC Breakfast to explain why they are 'dead good'.

I sent in the following questions which, if asked, the BBC editors will hopefully not 'enhance for greater truth' this time:

1) If this is largely to address environmental impacts and not a social penalty, what is the proportion of 4+ bedroom houses as a % of the total, energy consuming housing market?

2) If older properties are inevitably going to be less 'efficient', is this grading just to enable market force choices, or is there an intention to use this information as a factor in future levies imposed by central and/or local government on the householder?

3) Are issues such as risk of flooding included as this would obviously represent a huge negative in terms of protections and/or clear ups with new builds no matter how eco?

These are, as stated, questions, but they do raise certain issues.

I suspect that the of 4+ housing I am asking for is not that high, and hence one wonders what impact targeting this sector will have on the planet.

Then there is the actual use of this rating system. I can get my head around one on a fridge, but a house? Choosing a white box that keeps things cold is pretty much just down to the op costs... to me at least. But if I fall in love with a property am I really going to reject that stone cottage (on a hill, 'cos the old folks figured that living where it gets wet is daft) and buy that 90's newbuild (on a flood plain, 'cos all that is left) because it is a few ratings lower? I doubt it. And hence one wonders what value this information ultimately has, and to whom?

And speaking of (well alluding to) those who would use green as a stealthy way to tax us without much explanation as to how those taxes get ploughed back, I do finally wonder if other environmental issues such as being built on a flood plain will score badly. Versus the lack of a cavity wall, one can only imagine that digging up the floors of a soaked property and renovating the whole thing will not offer the greatest global enviROI.

But maybe it's more a matter of boxes being ticked and grabbing some quick green dosh?

I just watched (How street cred is she? All bob and yoof speak!!?) and there was a bunch of... nothing. The key questions (just one was asked - nice one, BBC! I have to share this I read on a less than favourable blog as to their abilities: 'Double standards but half the quality') were almost all avoided or 'future mysteries' alluded to without being tasked to actually answer.

Indy - How ministers turned a help into a hindrance - like everything else they touch
Guardian - Home information packs are dealt new blow by lenders - Hmnnn